Rifkind becomes media darling

SO, who is the Tory making the most impact in the media at the moment? To whom do newspapers and broadcasters turn when they want a sensible anti-Government analysis from a senior Conservative?It's not Michael Howard, whose catastrophic, equivocal handling of the recent Iraq debate, has plunged his party into fresh gloom.

SO, who is the Tory making the most impact in the media at the moment? To whom do newspapers and broadcasters turn when they want a sensible anti-Government analysis from a senior Conservative?

It's not Michael Howard, whose catastrophic, equivocal handling of the recent Iraq debate, has plunged his party into fresh gloom. And most members of the Shadow Cabinet are, I'm afraid, simply not up to the job of challenging Labour.

The Tory star at the moment is Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who can be found writing essays in the national newspapers and constantly popping up on radio and television discussion programmes. And he isn't even an MP.

Sir Malcolm, who was Foreign Secretary in the latter stages of John Major's administration, was defeated in his Edinburgh Pentlands seat. He failed in his bid to win it back in 2001 and has now decamped to the safe pastures of Kensington and Chelsea about to be vacated by Michael Portillo.


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Whatever happens to the Conservatives, they will always win K & C. Thus Sir Malcolm will return to the Commons at the election and could very well find himself at the top of the party before too much longer.

Although the Tories are still failing to make headway in national opinion polls, council by-elections are a different matter. Labour was blasted from left and right last week, losing to the anti-war Respect coalition in the London borough of Tower Hamlets (swing 18.9% Labour to Liberal Democrats) and to the Tories in North Ayrshire district in Scotland (swing 18.9% Labour to Conservative).

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An analysis based on 10 wards fought last Thursday and when previously contested by the three major parties gives projected shares of Tory 43.0%, Labour 27.9%, Liberal Democrat. 24.2%. This compares with a weekend opinion poll showing Tories on 32%, Labour 31% and Lib Dems 24%.

Note that the Lib Dems are on virtually the same percentage in both sets of figures - which must cause Labour and Tory strategists to worry at the impact Charles Kennedy could make at the General Election.

THE silly season's here and to celebrate no news month, some bright wags in the Labour Party have come up with the political answer to Big Brother - the Tory House of Turmoil. "With renewed infighting at all levels of the party, the Tories yet again find themselves in turmoil and demonstrating they never change," says a Labour spokesman.

You can vote to evict a Tory from their new headquarters in Victoria Street by logging on to Internet site www.toriesinturmoil.co.uk

DESPITE the problems faced by father Bashir - prevented by the Tories from seeking re-selection as an East of England Euro MP over allegations surrounding his Norfolk address - 22 year-old Hamid Khanbhai has gained a double first in languages at Oxford University and won a bursary to study at Princeton University in the United States.

And former Colchester Tory stalwarts Ian and Joan McCord are the proud parents of a baby daughter Anna, born on Friday weighing 8lb 12oz.

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